Amateur Running Sports: Lure Coursing

By now you are probably aware that I think greyhounds are much more than 45 miles per hour couch potatoes.  You may be thinking, I would love for my greyhound to have a more active lifestyle, but where do I start?

When I first adopted Jethro I was in the same boat.  I knew about lure coursing but the other greyhound running sports were a mystery to me. 

I am going to create a three-part series about amateur running sports in America.  I am going to give you the details on: lure coursing, LGRA, and NOTRA.  I hope that you will better understand the various options of running sports and find one or two that are best suited for you and your hound!

I am going to start with my most favorite amateur running sport, lure coursing.  

First things first, what is lure coursing?  Lure coursing was created the mimic open field or hare coursing– I am not sure that lure coursing creates this but it does create a nice athletic event to evaluate your hound’s ability.  The idea is that the course should represent how a hare would behave in the open field.  To create this, two to three white plastic garbage bags (lure) are tied to a line, and then the line with the lure attached is pulled by pulleys that are propelled by a generator throughout the course.  There are two main ways to move the lure around the course: continuous loop and drag operated.  Continuous loop courses allow running of multiple dogs quickly, as the line never comes off the pulleys, creating a continuous loop.  However, in some long straights of the course the line can “ride high” and cause line burn or other injuries to the hounds.  Drag operated lure does not cause line burn and some feel more engaging for the hound to chase.  I prefer running my dogs on drag lure.  It does take additional time to restring the entire 600-900 yard course.  However, this is minimal and does not usually slow down the trial.

Photo Credit: Cindy Frezon

Now that you’re looking forward to a beautiful day in the country, what does you Greyhound need to do?   All dogs competing in lure coursing will get two opportunities to run.  If they win their stakes they will have the opportunity to run for breed and if they win their breed they would have the opportunity to run in Best in Field.  Your Greyhound might potentially have to run four times in a day – that’s a lot of yards!

Prior to beginning any amateur sport, your Greyhound needs to be in tiptop shape.  The Greyhound needs to be at their racing weight and well conditioned.  It is important that you know if they had any injuries while on the track as that could impact the decision to lure course them or not.  As always, discuss this idea of running sports with your vet to make sure your Greyhound is healthy enough to compete.    

Photo Credit: Cindy Frezon

So where do I go to find a trial?  The good news is that there are lure coursing trials just about every weekend somewhere in the U.S.  There are also three main organizations that host lure coursing events: American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA), American Kennel Club (AKC) and the National Lure Coursing Club (NLCC).

American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA) is the original lure coursing organization.  Mirroring ASFA, the AKC also holds lure coursing events that function in a similar format to ASFA.  Both organizations have three stakes: open, specials (AKC)/field champions (ASFA), and veterans.  Both organizations judge on enthusiasm/overall ability, speed, follow, agility, and endurance.  Generally, three dogs will run together.  There are two points to consider when running AKC.  First you have to apply for an AKC registration number, as AKC does not recognize your Greyhound’s NGA registration and you will need a purebred alternative listing (PAL) number from AKC.  Secondly, even if your hound is certified by ASFA, the AKC requires them to be recertified unless the Greyhound has obtained their field championship title with ASFA.  I do not understand the AKC certification rule; it seems silly that a certified hound must have to recertify, as any dog that competes in ASFA long enough should be able to obtain their field championship. 

The final lure coursing organization is the National Lure Coursing Club (NLCC).  This organization runs a brace elimination format.  Again the hounds will run at least twice and up to four times.  The brace elimination format calls for two hounds running together at a time.  The loser of the course will fall into the B bracket and the winner will move on in the A bracket.  The beauty of NLCC lure coursing is the judging.  Lure coursing is a subjective running sport; however, NLCC makes it as objective as possible.  Scoring is in a tally format meaning that the dog that wins the run up (distance to first turn) is awarded 2-3 points, the hound that gets to the next turn first is awarded 1 point, if a hound passes another hound they are awarded 2 points, and the hound that gets to the stopped lure first is awarded 1-2 points.  I like this format, as it is easier to assess how your hound is doing on the course and understand the judge’s pick.    

Photo Credit: Cindy Frezon

Another important point is that all these organizations have a singles stake.  This is very important to beginners.  The singles stake allows hounds to run without another dog.  This allows the hound to become accustom to the lure and running longer distances.  These hounds are scored by the criteria per the organization that they are running with.  Generally hounds compete in singles a few times prior to getting their certification to compete in the open stakes.  I recommend running in the singles stake as it gets you, the handler, in a competitive mind frame.  You are no longer waiting for breaks or the end of the meet to run your hound but part of the meet and you have to follow the order of the meet.  Placements are awarded for this stake as well. 

I hope that now you know more about lure coursing and the options in your area.  This is an incredibly fun sport for you and your Greyhound.  I hope to see you on the field soon!

Hope you check back next week to learn more about amateur running sports for your hound. 
Photo credit: Cindy Frezon Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Things

Today I am going to take a break from my regular blog post. 

Once a month I am going to dedicate a post to a Greyhound-friendly product that I love.  I love to shop and have tried various products for my Greyhounds.  I hope that my experience will help when you are deciding on what toys, collars, beds, and other hound needs to purchase.    

If you have looked at the photos on this blog you know my Greyhounds love a good ball. 

Balls are fair game in our house. You leave some brand new tennis balls lying around and you are sure to come back to some slobbery fuzz-less balls.  Balls are king in our house for humans and hounds alike!

You may be thinking balls are a dime a dozen and there can’t be one ball better than all the rest.  Well, I disagree!

When I look for a ball I want something that can easily be held in a Greyhound’s mouth, not too heavy and has some give; Jethro likes to squeeze and pump the balls in his mouth.  The ball also needs to hold up against heavy use, chewing, be able to float, and can easily be cleaned. 

Hands down the best ball meeting the criteria above is the Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Orbee ball.  This ball is shaped like a globe and the continents are elevated and textured which is fun for chewing.  I thought those elevated continents were going to be goners but we have had this ball for about two years and the continents are still intact.  This ball does have some give, comes in various sizes, and is not heavy.  Orbee-Tuff toys are non-toxic and recyclable.  They are made out of thermo plastic elastomer (TPE) and have Olefinic oil and Peppermint oil to soften the toy.  The Peppermint oil also makes the toy and your Greyhound’s breath smell fresh. 

This ball was a game changer.  I use it most often for fetch, but if I need the boys to be extra good I will give one each of them and they will play and occupy themselves for extended periods of time.   Darla is always extra good!

Hope you try out the Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Orbee ball and let me know what you think!

Why Performance Matters: A Simple History of Greyhound Coursing

Feature image from The Greyhound & the Hare

 

For many years it was thought that the Greyhound originated in Egypt and the Middle East.  However, there were written accounts in the 1800’s stating that the Greyhounds originated from Celtic lands.  In 2004 this was proven.  The paper titled “The Genetic Structure of the Purebred dog” evaluated the molecular structure and differences in 85 breeds of dog.  This study proved that the Greyhound, along with the Borzoi, Irish wolfhound, and other herding breeds, were of European descent and in fact were genetically different from the African and Middle Eastern sighthounds.

There are accounts of the Greyhound noted throughout British history.  In Shakespeare’s play King Henry V, Shakespeare uses the Greyhound in the King’s monologues prior to battle.  Henry V said to his men, “I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. The game’s afoot.”  Shakespeare compared Henry V’s armies to Greyhounds because he knew the keenness, tenacity, and passion of the Greyhound.

The Tudor family was also fond of the Greyhound.  Henry the VII’s coat of arms included both a red dragon as well as a white Greyhound.  Henry the VIII had a great love of coursing, then called hunting.  It is noted that he converted some of his land into a course and it was used by two coursing societies.  However, that land has now been repurposed into a golf course.

From The Greyhound & the Hare

In the sixteenth century Queen Elizabeth I and Lord Norfolk developed the first coursing rules, “The laws of the leash.” These rules formalized the rules for coursing, focusing on the scoring of the Greyhound’s performance, rules for the slipper, and the handling of the hare.

Coursing focuses on the Greyhound’s greatest skill, the speediness of the chase.  More points are awarded to the Greyhound for speed and ability to pass another Greyhound than actually taking-out the hare.

Throughout the Tudor reign, the Forest Laws were in effect; these laws were established in the middle ages and strictly enforced by William the Conqueror.  People and dogs caught breaking these laws were mutilated and often times killed.

Coursing continued to be a sport of the nobles, waxing and waning in popularity throughout the reigns of Charles I and II.  During the reign of George the III, in the eighteenth century, coursing no longer was a private sport for the nobles but a sport for gentlemen.  Most of the participants coursed either Greyhounds or Whippets and made wagers on their hounds.

In 1776 The Lord of Orford in Swaffham, England created the first coursing club.  The original “laws of the leash” created by Lord Norfolk were still in effect and used.  Interest in coursing grew and more and more clubs originated.

From The Greyhound & the Hare

 

By the time of the industrial revolution, more people had free time and money to participate in hobby sports.  Coursing was also much cheaper than foxhunting.  Greyhounds and Greyhound coursing took off. Participants of the sport realized that if they had a winning hound there was additional income for breeding and selling puppies.  While these breedings were documented within the kennels, there was not an official Greyhound stud-book until 1882.

So why is this a big deal?  Coursing gave us the modern day Greyhound. The competition of coursing created a well-engineered dog that was thrilling to watch and fast.  The history of our beloved Greyhound gives us more insight into why people continued to breed Greyhounds and created the Greyhound that lives with us today.

There is still more to the story.  With the invention of the mechanical lure Greyhound Racing was created.  I will talk about racing in part two of this series, stay tuned!

 

Sources:

Alchin, L.K., Elizabethan Era. e.g. Retrieved December 3rd, 2016 from www.elizabethan-era.org.uk
Parker, H. G., Kim, L. V., Sutter, N. B., Carlson, S., Lorentzen, T. D., Malek, T. B., … & Kruglyak, L. (2004). Genetic structure of the purebred domestic dog. science304(5674), 1160-1164.
Shakespeare, William. King Henry V. Retrieved December 14th, 2016 from http://shakespeare.mit.edu/henryv/henryv.3.1.html
Winters, Jane. Early English Laws: Forest Laws. Retrieved December 3rd, 2016 from http://www.earlyenglishlaws.ac.uk/reference/essays/forest-law/

Why all the chatter about breed standard?

A few days ago I wrote an article about what it means to adopt a Greyhound.  Overall this article was well received.  However, some comments I found thought provoking.  I also reviewed other posts throughout social media and there continued to be a theme:  what is the standard for a greyhound and why that matters to you as an owner.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) judges each breed of dog based on a written standard.  You can review the AKC written standard for greyhounds below.

Head –  Long and narrow, fairly wide between the ears, scarcely perceptible stop, little or no development of nasal sinuses, good length of muzzle, which should be powerful without coarseness. Teeth very strong and even in front.
Ears ­ – Small and fine in texture, thrown back and folded, except when excited, when they are semi-pricked.
Eyes ­ – Dark, bright, intelligent, indicating spirit.
Neck – ­ Long, muscular, without throatiness, slightly arched, and widening gradually into the shoulder.
Shoulders – ­ Placed as obliquely as possible, muscular without being loaded.
Forelegs ­ – Perfectly straight, set well into the shoulder, neither turned in or out, pasterns strong.
Chest ­ -Deep, and as wide as is consistent with speed, Fairly well sprung ribs.
Back ­ – Muscular and broad.
Loins ­ – Good depth of muscle, well-arched, well cut up in the flanks.
Hindquarters ­ – Long, very muscular and powerful, wide and well let down, well-bent stifles.  Hocks well bent and rather close to the ground, wide but straight fore and aft.
Feet ­ – Hard and close, rather more hare than cat feet, well knuckled up with good strong claws.
Tail ­ – Long, fine and tapering with a slight upward curve.
Coat ­ – Short, smooth and firm in texture.
Color ­ – Immaterial
Weight ­ – Dogs, 65 to 70 pounds: Bitches, 60 to 65 pounds

If you are like me when you read this, it sounds very similar to what you see in a National Greyhound Association (NGA) greyhound.  First, what is the difference between the AKC and NGA?  Both are registering bodies; however, the NGA is special as they only register greyhounds.  All American racing greyhounds are registered with the NGA.  The NGA doesn’t have a written breed standard so to speak; rather, NGA greyhounds are bred to a performance standard, meaning they are judged on their ability to excel in running sports.  When we look at the AKC written standard for the breed, the NGA greyhound fits the description in that standard.  So why do we find ourselves disagreeing on the breed standard again and again?  The answer is rather complicated.   I think that show breeders thought that breeding a greyhound with exaggerated structural features was sexy and the dog would be able to compete in the group and best in show ring at dog shows.   They succeeded.  There is no functional purpose or advantage for the exaggerated changes we see in most greyhounds that compete in the show ring.

Actually, dogs that are exaggerated are not good for our breed and here is why.  These dogs are not functional in that they are deficient in athletic ability.  They are able to participate in running sports but unable to compete on the same level with coursing-bred greyhounds or racing greyhounds.  If you read into the written standard above you will understand all these qualities are desirable because they improve the greyhound’s speediness and athleticism.  By exaggerating the structural features called for in the written standard we are taking the functionality and the most important part of the greyhound away.

I have listened and read comments about show greyhounds and see things such as “isn’t she beautiful” or “she’s living art”.  I appreciate these opinions but I want to know if they have ever seen a greyhound running after a lure or quarry.  Have they ever seen true poetry in motion?

I am not sure that I will ever feel that a hound standing in a ring is more lovely than a hound doing what they were bred to do for centuries.  I will never see how loping in a ring can be more beautiful than raw power on the coursing field or sand being flung all over the track by a hound that can scoot.

I understand that dog shows are a lot of fun to a lot of people.  I wish we would see more functional dogs at these shows.  I proudly support the breeders that are promoting functional hounds and I hope that in the future at Greyhound specialties you will not see a dog win breed in the ring that is not able to compete in the field but instead a Greyhound that can win in the ring and on the lure coursing field.

As stewards of our breed we must advocate for functionality.   Our focus should not be on what can win the group and best in show ring but what can make a hare turn and break track records.  We simply must focus on the raw power of our breed; after all, it’s why they are still with us.

Official Standard of the Greyhound. c/o The American Kennel Club.  Retrieved December 1st, 2016 from http://images.akc.org/pdf/breeds/standards/Greyhound.pdf_ga=1.268297802.576806201.1479637347

Greyhound Behavior: Decoded!

Have you ever seen your greyhound act odd or refuse a command you know they understand?   If you are like me, you want to find a cause for what they are doing or not doing.  Today I am going to discuss how I analyze my dog’s behavior. 
 
First, greyhounds are not aggressive dogs.  Oftentimes new greyhound owners mistake play for aggression.  Greyhounds are mouthy, they like to feel different textures in their mouths and they also like to use their mouths in play.  
 


 
 
 
You can see based on these photos how someone might mistake greyhound play for aggression; however, it is completely innocent.  The nature of greyhound play can lead to issues, think big teeth and thin skin.  This is why a lot of owners turn out their greyhounds with muzzles on.  This is the safest why to turn out multiple greyhounds.
 
Aggression towards other dogs or humans is rather uncommon in greyhounds, although some tend to have very strong prey drives.  Jethro had some serious issues when he came to our home.  He thought that anything that was small and fluffy was a lure.  We needed serious help with this dog, as I was not accustomed to 65lbs of solid muscle pulling on the leash.  I went to our local obedience class first.  The environment there was overwhelming for Jethro and increased his fear.  I decided that his reconditioning was going to have to be completed at home and gradually introduced in public.
 
 
I am a researcher; I immediately researched the best books and set out on a mission to help Jethro.  These books were extremely useful to us, and I recommend them to other owners who are dealing with very drivey dogs:  On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas, The Other End of the Leash: Why We do What We do Around Dogs by Patricia McConnell, and Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior by Temple Grandin.  After reading these books I started implementing their suggestions.  I changed my behavior to help Jethro feel safe.  One of my Greyhound friends told me to act like a “calm fearless leader,” and this became my mantra with Jethro.  I also kept a toy with me anytime I had Jethro out, as Jethro is not food driven but loves to tug.  I was also focused on his body language to give me cues, allowing me to disrupt his unwanted behavior before it happened.
 
Overall this was very successful for us, but we did have setbacks.  Right after Darla was adopted I was struggling with watching Jethro and her on our walks.  Jethro did mess up and for about four months Jethro and Darla had to be walked separately so that I could keep my eyes on him and try my best to see the world through his eyes.  We have to remember that dogs are dogs.  They are not humans and we cannot expect them to act like us.  We have to look at life through their eyes and then train them to be successful in our world. 
 
Now, Jethro is doing great.  We can take him alone or with the rest of our pack anywhere.  I did not take away his prey drive (just asked our backyard squirrels) but I did enable him with the tools to be a great dog in a world of cats and poodles. 
 


 
 
Not all greyhounds have such high prey drives. The most common characteristic that greyhounds are known for include: even-tempered, gentle, affectionate, quiet, and athletic.  Oftentimes it takes a hound some time to blossom after adoption.   Even after the hound is well established in the pack, they may refuse a command or act odd.  That is when I really investigate what is happening and intervene if needed. 
 
The other day I was trying to get a photo of all three of my dogs laying on a blue quilt in the nice fall weather.  I had Sashi on one end and Jethro on the other.  All I needed was for Darla to lay down in-between the boys.  Darla is my most loyal hound: she comes when she is called, she sits on command, and she is pure awesomeness in a small brindle package.  She would not lie down between the boys, would not do it no matter what I fed her or gave her.  I took a step back, letting go of my photo idea, and got in Darla’s head and thought about these four things: 1. Darla is obedient, so what is the issue with this situation? 2. Darla knows how to lie down, is something bothering her about the position? 3. Jethro is the alpha of the pack, is she insecure about lying this close to him? 4. Is she uncomfortable being in the middle of the boys and would like to be on the end?
 
After thinking about these facts I realized that Darla did not want her space encroached on – it was not OK at that point in their doggy relationship.
 



 
When my dogs refused a command I first think, is something hurting them.  Often times the refusal can be linked to the flooring or to the situation above.  My dogs are not perfect and sometimes they will simply refuse to do something, but I always rule out other factors first.
 
If you look at all these photos, Darla does not have issues being close to other dogs but needs to be one the end.  The photo would have worked if I would have put her on the end and the boys together, oh well! I called off the photo shoot and everyone went back to his or her normal behavior. 
 
The point of this is that most of the time obedient dogs are not trying to ignore us.  There maybe something wrong with the situation in their minds.  It is not our job to make them do uncomfortable things but figure out that is the issue and try to find a fix to allow them to flourish.  
 
Being a dog owner and training my dogs is the hardest job I have.  I always need to be on and be a leader for the pack.  By analyzing your dog’s actions and getting into his head you will create a better environment for you and your hound. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Peanut

I admit I struggle to get my dogs exercised when it is raining.  I hate being outside when it is wet and I hate them getting so dirty.  I dislike rain.

So what is a savvy greyhound owner to do with her hyperactive and under stimulated hounds… Well, my friends, that sounds like a job for the peanut.  
The peanut is designed by FitPAWS.   It is an oblong shaped ball that the dog stands on to help increase their core awareness.  Just like core training in the human world, this is hard work.  I ask the hound the stand on it for three minutes at a time repeating three times.  This gives them a brain and core break and allows them to focus when it is their turn.  

 

 

My boys adore the peanut, as soon as I get it out excitement erupts with barking, running, and all together spazzing-out.  Darla, is not a peanut fan.  The upside for her is the food; girlfriend is a foodie and will do just about anything for salmon.  
The good thing about the Peanut is, that it works the dog physically and mentally.  This gives you a nicely exercised calm dog that will not wreck your home when it is raining, snowing, or just icky outside.  

When all else fails, just move the coffee table, throw a toy down with a squawker, and let them go!  As you can see, the Diva loves her stuffed toys and NO ONE is getting on her bed

 

 

 

 

Have a good weekend and enjoy those nice, calm, happy hounds!

LGRA

I am always ready to get the dogs out and let them play.  I was planning to attend the ASFA region 7 invitational; however, I had an engagement that could not be rescheduled.  Fortunately, there was a LGRAmeet within a day’s drive on the same weekend.  I loaded up the hounds and we decided to try racing.  

I have to admit that my dogs adore this sport.  I am partial to lure coursing, mostly due to the location.  I love being out in the country, but the hounds love racing.  I think it has everything to do with the lure that is used in racing.  Jethro and Darla thought the squawker lure was the greatest invention on earth.  Sashi was a little unsure, but after some training, he loves the squawker as well.  
This was Darla’s first time running this season.  I was very impressed with the Diva.  Darla’s running can be very capricious.  She loves to run but on her terms.  If something irritates her or she is just not feeling like it she will not give it her all.  I have talked with my vets and trainers and we feel that that is just her.  I never know what I am going to get, but girlfriend came prepared for this race.  She did excellently against a very nice and very fast bitch.   She came in second and I was very pleased with her.
Jethro on the other hand, had bloody nail beds after his first run.  The ground was really hard and he is not accustomed to that, so he lounged in the car the rest of the day… Yeah right… He acted like a spoiled brat because he was not getting to run.  He ripped open a pack of cashews, spilled a bottle of water, and coffee over the seat of the car.   He was highly upset!
Overall, out first LGRA outing was a lot of fun.  Thanks again to great friends like Carl Doby and Jennifer Ng for their help and the wonderful photos!
Photo credit: Carl Doby and Jennifer Ng